I painfully watch his health waste away with every puff.
I often feel like I’m at a crossroads when I try to accept his choice, since his decision to smoke not only affects him – it also affects me and others who care for him.
I try to convince myself by saying it’s his choice, that I shouldn’t be affected by it.
I have often thought that I would have probably become a smoker as well, if I had the choice. I have received many invitations, but I’ve had too many emergency visits to the hospital to say yes. Asthma made my choice for me: I can only be a non-smoker. Apart from nights where I replaced cuddling a teddy bear (due to allergies) with an inhaler, I have often fantasized myself smoking on a cold day, in a red fur coat (for some odd reason).
I’ve spent too many mornings in the bathroom after him, inhaling the lingering fumes, experiencing passive smoking.
While I have a breathing illness, he has just been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. His brother, who also smokes, recently underwent a heart surgery that involved 5 stents.
This wasn’t very shocking to any of us; we all saw it coming. Almost every packet of cigarettes is prefaced with a very gruesome image, warning against one of its side effects.
I don’t care about his addiction and his lifestyle choices, and I presumably shouldn’t, because, at the end of the day, it’s HIS choice.
That’s what she thinks too, so she just makes sure he takes his medicine, prays for him every night and tries to make sure that his illness doesn’t get worse. Prevention is better than cure; the delusion of medicine’s magic always does the trick.
His choice is similar to many other people, and though I understand that it is difficult to let go of a habit, I wonder if people can make choices in a way that does not compromise the well-being of those around them.
As Kurt Vonnegut notes,
Cigarettes are a classy way to commit suicide.
However, this is arguably only for the smoker, and not for the on-lookers.
To me it’s like watching a man jumping of a bridge on repeat until he finally stops breathing. On an emotional level it affects not the individual but in most cases the family or friends that accept their decision but do not necessarily support it.
When I was younger I used to steal a few cigarettes and throw it in the dustbin, or wet the ends slightly so it could not be lit. It was my way of trying to stop him from smoking. It didn’t work, but if I have the chance to do it again at 21, I’d do it, because he is family, and until something takes his life away I prefer him being around.
With regards to smoking’s effects in the future, my uncle’s heart surgery only happened to him, but his non-smoking family had to bathe him, walk him and watch over him. Hence, this individualistic choice became a collective burden. Therefore I think it’s wise that unless one decides to take it upon themselves to suffer and die alone, this individualistic choice is NOT your choice.
And as I don’t have the sugar required to coat your actions, you’re being selfish. Secondhand smoke (SHS) puts into my lungs the same harmful chemicals that you, as a smoker, voluntarily inhale. And you might not blow it into my face, but there’s no safe level of exposure to SHS.
There are other harmful effects of SHS. It wages war on the heart and blood vessels, increasing the risk of heart attack and stroke in non-smokers. SHS also has links to mental and emotional changes, even contributing to depression. This is not 100% proven by science, as more research is needed to study this link between smoking and mental health, but the link definitely does exist. Constant SHS also increases the risk of lung cancer by 20-30%.
I have learnt to respect others for the choices they take upon themselves, whether it be good or bad to them is not of my concern as I am only a human and not one to judge. However I find it difficult to comprehend how certain smokers can indulge in smoking with non-smokers around them, especially with the knowledge that smoking is harmful and that these others have made their own choice of not smoking.
I conclude with wishful thinking for all smokers for even though, the ‘He’ I mentioned smokes away from us now, I wish he could just stop, there are so many years to be lived and he doesn’t seem to understand that staying physically fit on the outside is not the only thing that matters.
I wish he understood that as much as living in the Now matters, so does the living for the future: not just for him, but for her who watches over him, and for me as well.
by Amashi Marisa De Mel
Feature image source: ninagrey